Nature in Emily Dickinson's There's a Certain Slant of Light

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In the literary work "There's a certain Slant of Light"Emily Dickinson employs different stylistic devices. Specifically, the writer uses a calm, yet melancholic and satirical tone to reinforce her theme. Besides, the poem presents the role of nature on an individual. The essay, thus, discusses how nature serves to reveal individual viewpoints on death and remind individuals of the existence of death.

            The poem is written in a very somber and melancholy tone. The poet expresses these emotions through the language and choice of words she employs throughout the literary piece. For example, the narrator's expression as she looks at the slanting light passing through her window is somewhat surprising and depressing. As opposed to feeling excitement at the positive symbolism of the light, Dickinson exclaims, “That oppresses, — Heavenly Hurt, it gives us” (Dickinson 126). From the excerpt, it is as though the slant is making the light weigh down on the narrator. The impact of the light is so adverse that the writer only experiences emotional torture as, “We can find no scar” on the outside (Dickinson 126). Additionally, the light is so isolating and has made everything around the poet appear so oppressive like an “imperial affliction.” The speaker who the audience interacts with in the end has experienced the fading of the light and feels the sense of loneliness and estrangement. The last stanza finalizes with the daylight much closer to coming to an end the narrator much closer to death. When integrated, all these elements and choice of words define an atmosphere of melancholy.

            From a different perspective, on the surface, the tone in the poem can be considered calm. The choice of words defines a very peaceful and tranquil setting that suggests a very calm attitude towards the subject of discussion. For instance, the poet narrates about "winter afternoons"and a certain "slant of light,"which depict a very serene and positive atmosphere (Dickinson 126).  However, a critical analysis of the poem results in a tone shift as the meaning of the literature is depressing and discouraging. The fact that the “slanting light” which is supposed to symbolize happiness is associated with oppression and so much darkness creates the irony in the poem. As such, this irony and parallel structure that defines the scene of the literature, highlight a satirical tone.

            The poem also presents a unique viewpoint on the role of nature on the individual. Dickinson depicts nature as a distant and foreign force that serves to remind humans of the universal presence of death. The narrator lays open the conflict between the inner self and the outer nature and leaves it to the interpretive self to unravel the source of meaning. As such, the physical and emotional impressions that nature exerts upon individual consciousness are only significant within the person’s mind, “Where the Meanings, Are” (Dickinson 126).  In other word’s individuals view nature depending on how a person feels on the inside. For instance, considering that the speaker is depressed, she is unable to construe the slanting light as a symbol of joy or hope but deems it oppressive. In this light, Dickinson has used nature as a means to reflect on the life of the narrator. Nature, which is in defined in the slanting light and the wintery afternoon are a source of pain to the human spirit, reflecting the poet's grim outlook on life and the degree of her depression. Also, from a different perspective, nature is also a source of hope for the narrator. In the fourth verse, the poet’s voice indicates a sense of expectation as opposed to desolation. Dickinson personifies “Landscape” and “Shadows,” referring to them as though they were familiar (126). The fact that the landscape listens provides hope and the reader gets the sense that the narrator is no longer depressed and that she is perhaps optimistic.

            Also, nature has also been used to depict the specific outlooks individuals hold towards death. For instance, in the literature, the poet views the world from the perspective of death. At the beginning of the poem, the cathedral tunes combine with the depressing feeling of winter afternoons, and the second stanza further exemplifies the image with the phrase “Heavenly Hurt” (Dickinson 126). These phrases may be construed to mean that the oppression the narrator endures may not be bad after all, but happy as it is termed the "Seal Despair."From the context of the third verse, the “seal” could represent what awaits an individual between the phases of life and death (Dickinson 126). The third stanza symbolizes the concept of eternity that is exemplified in an afterlife upon death. The seal is an assurance of some sort that comes from a divine place. As such, in “There’s a certain Slant of Light,” nature symbolizes an individual’s perspective on death, specifically, the poet’s belief of an afterlife.

            In conclusion, Emily Dickinson uses this piece of literature to express the concept of light from a different perspective. The melancholic tone helps exemplify the mysterious and oppressive nature of the light. Additionally, the slanting light highlights the unique role of nature on individuals. 

Work Cited

Dickinson, Emily. Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries. Edited by Helen Vendler, The Belknap P of Harvard UP, 2010.

November 24, 2023

Art Literature

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